Friday, August 30, 2013

STUD: Part Three

This short story has been read and approved for posting by SR. Any resemblance to actual living persons is purely coincidental. No one was harmed in the making of this little story, although the dignity of a few surely did suffer. 

The game: Poker
The stakes: Fashion humiliation
The players:

 The Author: Sylvain Reynard

 The Handsome Neighbor: Sir

 The Professor: Gabriel O. Emerson

            Professor Emerson set his sights on Sylvain.  He had seen the man tug on his collar and avoid eye contact with good cards.  He’d also noticed that Sylvain hadn't bluffed once.  He either folded, or had decent enough cards to justify his bets.

            Sir was just happy to have made it to the next round.  He’d made
some blunders, and had just lost another hundred and a half to
the watchful author.

            Sylvain was not aware of his tells, but he noticed that The Professor
was watching him for signals so he began to monitor his own body
language.  When Sir dealt him two fives and two aces he didn't even look
at his cards until Gabriel had made his bet.

            "I'm in for forty," The Professor murmured, making his total commitment only fifty dollars including the ante.  He had yet another small pair of fours, but it was a minor gamble to test the waters.

            "Call," Sylvain said.  He too was happy with any victory at the moment.

            "Two hundred," Sir announced.  He had the other two aces and his
competitors' thrifty wagers had given him the opportunity to make a big splash.

            Professor Emerson blurted the word Mother very loudly before stopping himself and smiling weakly at his neighbor.  He knew that the frail-looking fellow was willing to bluff big, but to raise the stakes as the last bettor was a statement. He analyzed Sir long enough to make his neighbor nervous. Slowly, Gabriel placed his cards on the table and glared at Sylvain, willing him to make his decision.

            SR knew he was going to call.  This hand would cement him as the
chip leader, but Gabriel's recent scrutiny had him second guessing every
decision, or at least looking like he was second guessing every decision.  It
was his only solution to blur whatever it was The Professor was looking for.

            "All right," he confirmed finally, counting out two hundred dollars in chips. "I'll do it."

            Sir proudly flopped his pair of aces onto the table, but when SR did
the same with a shrug and three cards still in his hand, it was clear that the French Canadian was going to lose another big hand.
            Sylvain collected the chips as well as the cards and organized both. From his perch at the bar, Robin declared that while the next man out might not opt to keep his new pair of shoes, he would be wearing his sweet new footwear as soon as he could go bowling.

            Three ten dollar chips made a white clover in the middle of the table
and SR sailed Sir's cards over them like spinning UFOs.  SR dealt himself a stupendously dreadful hand and waited to see how the other two felt about their cards.

            Sir was getting mighty low on chips but bet half of them with a
crooked smile.  The Professor raised him the rest of his own chips.  Sylvain
promptly folded, not wanting anything to do with the next few seconds.
            "I think I have you, sir," Sir hinted to Gabriel as he pushed the rest of his chips into the sizable mound on the table.  When he showed everyone the quartet of deuces he possessed, The Professor almost screamed in rage.  Instead, he snorted like a bull and glared savagely at Sylvain's cards.

            Antonio brought him another Scotch, which The Professor accepted wordlessly before he looked down at his own dwindling pile of chips.  He and Sir each had about four hundred dollars left while SR sat behind stacks so high that he looked like a kid hiding in a fort.

            Gabriel acquired the deal again, and with it came good luck.  He won a close contest with the other two men and a three hundred dollar pot.  Sir dealt himself an abysmal hand and watched as The Professor won another three hundred dollars from SR.

            Sylvain dealt the cards feeling hopeful that he would get something going.  He was rewarded with another two pair, nines and kings, but The Professor had three threes and the momentum began to shift his way.

            "The ante is now twenty dollars," Gabriel told them as he shuffled the cards. 

            SR threw in his ante, then matched the sixty dollar pot with his bet.  He had a pair of tens and didn't want to commit just yet.  Sir followed suit, but he’d already lost with a couple of fours.  He also only had about a hundred dollars remaining.  Professor Emerson called as well and won the two hundred forty dollar pot.

            On Sir's deal he received two pair which earned him a hundred dollars back from The Professor.  On Sylvain's deal, he won two times that from the same opponent.

            "Don't count the little guy out yet," Robin bellowed and began rooting for the mousy man to win it all.

            "I never do," SR muttered as he watched Gabriel shuffle the cards with a practiced hand.  The Professor was not satisfied with the chip lead Mr. Reynard still had, but he had gained ground and smiled as he dealt himself a pitiful pair of twos.

Sylvain watched Gabriel’s smiles with interest.  He noticed that The Professor seldom won when he was smiling.  SR also stopped tugging his collar and his hair, or doing anything with his hands except touching cards, chips and glasses of Scotch.

            Gabriel dealt Sylvain a full house so sweet that Bob Saget might as well have been the face on the jacks that looked back at him.  He bet a hundred dollars and counted on the other two to raise it.

            A pair of kings was given to Sir so he matched Sylvain's bet.  He was feeling good because that was only about a quarter of his pile.

            "One twenty-five to me?" The Professor queried.  For a minute, he looked like he was going to bet to throw off the stink of his crummy hand, but he unceremoniously dropped his cards and finished his drink.  Sylvain knew one of his tells.

            SR turned his cards over, embarrassed at such a good hand.  Gabriel was simply happy that that he didn't have decent enough cards to even consider a bet.

            Sir's deal was next and he shuffled the cards while they listened to Robin sing All Of Me along with the track playing in the surprisingly acoustic room. The song always made SR think of Steve Martin. 

            Gabriel looked down at his cards with a frown.  His face displayed  a deep scowl, something he’d trained himself to do when a particularly good hand came his way.  Sir was also pleased with his cards but his joy was written all over his face.

            Mr. Reynard was a statue.  He was dealt another phenomenal hand, a flush.  All of his cards were clubs, or puppy tracks as his friends from school used to call them.  He felt himself sitting rigidly and willed himself to relax.  He then tried his hand at acting and ran his hand through his hair as if he were unsure how to proceed.

            It was The Professor's bet and Gabriel was particularly frustrated that he happened to be first.  He couldn't bet big, but he didn't want to win a small pot either.  He casually tossed in one hundred fifty in chips and was delighted to see SR just as casually raise the bet another hundred and a half.

            Sir was stunned.  The bet was three hundred to him which was damn near all he had left.  He was sitting on three sevens so he shoved all but a half dozen chips into the pot.  A second later he shoved in the rest and blew out all his breath. 

            He stood up like Robin had when his entire game was at stake.

            "Turn 'em over," The Professor spoke solemnly.  He was certain that his three queens were going to win him a pot worth nearly a thousand dollars. 

Sir displayed his hopeful sevens but Gabriel didn't draw out his suspense.  He turned over his triplet monarchs but did not revel in the look of shock on his neighbor's face.

            Sir gazed up at the pair of hideous costume cries for help that would garner a second look even in Hollywood.  He swallowed drily and was suddenly very happy when he realized he still had a choice.

            Sylvain waited quietly until The Professor remembered the final detail of the hand and turned to him.  When SR laid his second full house in as many hands on the table, understanding was surprisingly slow to register on The Professor's face.

            Gabriel suddenly looked sick.  He had successfully seen another competitor dismissed, but he was now far behind in the chip count.

            Robin cheerfully addressed Sir. "Choose your proverbial poison, my fellow Goodfellow." The snarky man’s voice shook Gabriel from his daze, and only when his attention was turned towards Sir and his impending decision did SR scoop up his winnings very quickly.

            "It's a tougher choice than I thought it'd be," Sir lied as he paced the pedestals.  "I predict that my biggest chagrin will be in undressing the display models...and it certainly wouldn't take long to remove the few items that belong to the gentleman in the printed Speedo..."

            "Technically, I think that's a thong," Robin clarified.

            "Yes, well, that might have just done the trick.  I think I will be much more comfortable in the more elaborate of the ensembles."

            "So that's your choice then?"  The Professor grumbled, not taking his eyes off the last mannequin.  "The Bieber?"

            Sir answered by approaching the featureless statue and removing the Casio watch. 

            He chose to change in the washroom, wanting to model his new wardrobe with a good entrance.  The unicorn-embroidered cowboy boots were too big, but Sir was happy that it wasn't the other way around.  The Justin Bieber shirt was horrible, of course, as were the bandannas he wrapped around his wrist with difficulty.

            The pants, however, he liked.  They were a soft pair of Superman pyjama bottoms and they appeared completely unworn.  Sir didn't say anything to any of his companions, but he planned on keeping them.  Those and the Casio watch.

            When Sir walked back into the room, he put his other clothes on the nearest bar stool and spun so that his grey and maroon plaid jacket whirled around like a party dress.

            "Oh shit!" Robin cried. "I think I picked the wrong one!"  Everyone laughed, even Antonio.

            "You look like a vaudeville refugee,"  Sylvain uttered, earning a nod from the self-appointed bard who promptly walked over to the table to address the two men left sitting there.

            "Gentlemen, I think you should consider changing the game."

            "What do you mean?" Gabriel huffed.

            "With just the two of you playing, and a stud game at that, the bluff goes completely out the window.  All you'll do is win the ante.  And most likely you're going to bet while he folds, and he's going to bet while you fold. This will go on for about an hour before you come to the same conclusion."  Robin looked at SR, who arched his eyebrow.

            "He's right," Sir put in, fiddling with his drawstring. "There's not much room left in this game for strategy."

            "What do you suggest we play?"  Sylvain was curious and game for a change-up.

            "Texas Hold-'Em," Robin replied as though it was the only logical answer.

            Gabriel was not opposed to the idea. It was still a stud game with no draw cards, but it did have three rounds of betting.  It could potentially make it that much easier to boost his chip count.

            "I'm fine with that," The Professor agreed.  "But we should start fresh, with equal chips."

            The brash request was met with immediate objections from both Robin and Sir, who had become very emboldened in his new pyjama pants. 

            “That isn’t fair,” Sir protested. “That gives you more chips without having to win them from Mr. Reynard.” 

            Robin raised his eyebrows. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were sliding back into the Fourth Circle of Hell, Dr. Emerson.”   His Dante reference was met with an ice-cold glare from The Professor.

            "Actually," SR leaned in so The Professor could hear him. "I'm all right with that."

            "What?"  Robin was flabbergasted.  "Sylvain… Mr. Reynard, don't you see what he's doing?"

            "Don't do it!" Sir pleaded.

            "It's a completely new game," Sylvain said evenly.  "Besides, it's what happens in professional tournaments."  He stood up and moved to the chair Robin had occupied.  He faced The Professor and began to divide the chips.

            Gabriel couldn't believe his luck.  He knew Sylvain was fair to a fault and he was about to cash in on it.  There was no way he was going home in that ridiculous ball-hugger.

            Robin watched Sylvain's resolve and shrugged his shoulders.  "Well then, you chaps need a dealer, and I volunteer."


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

STUD: Part Two

This short story has been read and approved for posting by SR. Any resemblance to actual living persons is purely coincidental. No one was harmed in the making of this little story, although the dignity of a few surely did suffer.

The game: Poker
The stakes: Fashion humiliation
The players:

 The Author: Sylvain Reynard

The Snarky Narrator: Robin Goodfellow

 The Handsome Neighbor: Sir

 The Professor: Gabriel O. Emerson

            Professor Emerson quickly shuffled the deck three times and passed it to the man on his left to cut the cards.

"Thin to win," The Professor’s neighbor mumbled, mostly to himself.

The cards were dealt and the men were silent as Frank Sinatra’s Luck Be A Lady Tonight provided the soundtrack to the first hand of the evening.

The Professor dealt himself a pair of tens.  Sylvain had a steaming pile of nothing, not even a face card. 

Robin Goodfellow held a flush of clubs, extremely rare for a stud game and a certain winner as long as the French Canadian guy with the rimless spectacles didn't have a full house or something.

He didn't. Sir was dealt a pair of eights.

"The deal will move to the left, but betting begins on the right," Gabriel announced, hinting to Sylvain that he should start the round.

            Sylvain's strategy was simple. He was just going to play the cards and not spend the whole night trying to bluff the three most bluff-proof characters one could spend an evening with.  He slid his cards over to the dealer without a word.

"SR folds," The Professor commented. "What about you, Snarky?"

Robin smiled.  "Fold," he replied, and slid his cards face down over to SR, who ferried them the rest of the way to the dealer.

"I guess it's just you and me," Gabriel said to his neighbor.

"I bet fifty," Sir declared as he tossed three chips into the pot.

"Call," answered The Professor. 

Both men turned over their cards and Gabriel scooped up the pile of chips.  He’d confidently put in nearly half of the money himself, and winning the first pot of the night was precisely what he’d expected from this game.

            All the cards were now delivered to Sir. He proceeded to shuffle, cut, and deal with quiet efficiency.  He dealt himself two queens. 

            Gabriel tried not to frown at his measly pair of threes while Sylvain stared appreciatively at three aces.  Robin Goodfellow had a hand filled with so many low numbers that he thought he might as well be playing dominos.

            The Professor boldly bet two hundred which almost scared away SR. In the end, the author felt it was worth the gamble and called the bet.  His stomach was already doing calisthenics.

            Robin called as well, gleefully throwing twenty percent of his chips into the pot with no chance of winning.  Sir really wanted to bet, but knowing that two people were already in diminished his chances of having the winning hand.  He laid down his cards and shook his head.

            Sylvain turned his cards over immediately and the tirade of obscenities from his left and the soft chuckle from his right told him that the pot was his to take.  He scooped the chips away and began stacking them neatly while Robin shuffled and dealt the next hand. 

            SR cautiously twisted in his chair to regard the wretchedly regaled mannequins. "I don't know about the rest of you," he murmured, "but I like that calculator watch."  He then turned back around and studied his new hand, which was garbage.

            The Professor was dealt another low pair but decided not to bluff.  Sir almost got a straight (which was exactly nothing), and Robin landed himself triple sixes.

"The pot's light," The Professor observed. Sir quickly tossed in the ante he’d forgotten along with a hefty stack of chips.  He immediately regretted his bluff, but more than that he regretted showing that he immediately regretted it.

"I call," Gabriel crooned, pouncing like a cat on a canary.

"Fold," SR stated wisely, knowing that just because you think someone is bluffing, it doesn't suddenly make your crap hand any better than theirs.

"Me too," Robin chirped, cheerfully dropping his cards to the dark wood of the table.

The Professor gathered up a second pot before his neighbor even turned over his cards.  The game was becoming tense as everyone noticed Gabriel's growing pile of chips.
In the background, Ray Charles began singing Blackjack. Everyone raised their eyebrows at the obviously wrong card game named in the song, but the author in the group recognized the significance thanks to his Radio SR experience. Charles wrote the tune after winning all of T-Bone Walker’s money in a blackjack game.

            Sylvain threw in his ante before he began shuffling the cards, and offered the deck to The Professor to cut.  Gabriel simply tapped the cards with two fingers, a sign of trust and respect.

            When SR peered down at the cards he dealt himself, he kept from smiling but looked away too fast.  A guilty glance later and The Professor knew that his old friend had something special.  Gabriel himself had a pair of jacks but realized it wouldn't be enough to beat whatever had SR clamping down on his excitement.

"Your bet," SR indicated to Robin, who had nothing.

"Four hundred," Robin responded, and tossed half of his pile into the middle of the table.

The Professor studied Goodfellow closely.  He knew Sylvain had the goods but hadn’t anticipated such a large bet from across the table.

"I'm out," Sir proclaimed.  He had two pair, but his last loss combined with the large bet chased him out of the round.

"Fold." The Professor hated leaving the chance to win an eight hundred dollar pot, but knew that it would cost him the game if he made foolish decisions. And that was just not going to happen.

"Take it," Robin laughed.  "I was bluffing. I don't even think I have anything higher than a ten."  He turned his cards over to reveal that he was correct.

"That would make a great low-ball hand," SR offered as he gathered up his winnings.

By the time Gabriel dealt for the second time, almost half the chips on the table belonged to Mr. Reynard.  It was a startling turn of events so early in the game and everyone anxiously downed the rest of their drinks, including SR.

A fresh round of cocktails and cards came next and so did another loss for Robin.  This time, The Professor was the beneficiary of a sizable bet on a pair of nines.

            Sir's deal made him the winner of a small pot, which was a boost for his morale. Robin dealt himself four of a kind, which he promptly folded.  He watched contentedly as Gabriel won eighty bucks with nothing more than a high king.

            Sylvain's deal was a disaster. His three sevens fooled him into betting almost three hundred dollars against The Professor, who had three eights.  Robin also lost quite a bit of money in that hand, as did Sir.

            By the time Gabriel acquired the cards for his third deal, he was roughly even with SR. Robin was down to his last short stack.

"Round three," Gabriel stated. "Ante goes up to ten dollars."

Everyone made the adjustment while he dealt the cards.  He caught a miserable hand. Sir received a pair of aces, Robin held a pair of twos, and Sylvain secured a full house, queens over jacks.  The cards resembled a mini English cotillion in his hands.

            Sylvain bet conservatively, hoping not to scare Robin away, but the Snarky Narrator surprised everyone and pushed all of his remaining chips into the center of the table. He stood up, imitating the professional poker players he’d watched on television.

            Sir matched Robin’s bet of one hundred and forty dollars. Gabriel folded with a sigh. Sylvain called.

            When the men turned over their hands, everyone simultaneously looked from their cards over to Robin, the newly condemned.

"Don't mourn my loss," he implored as he strode over to the pedestal with the polyester powerhouse. "Because I plan to sit at the bar in this My Cousin Vinnie getup and make fun of you bastards all night."

"So you choose the suit?"  Gabriel probed to make it official.

"I do," Robin answered.  He’d known from the beginning he was never going to win. Therefore, being the first one knocked out of the game gave him the greatest advantage.  Now he could spend the night staying warm and looking like he was going to a fancy costume party while two of the others would be stranded in dreadful and revealing outfits that could have come out of a long-forgotten Second City prop box.

"You passed the washroom at the bottom of the stairs. Unless you want to change in here with us," Gabriel suggested.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you?"  Robin provoked.

"I simply meant that it would be more comfortable to use a bar stool as opposed to a toilet," The Professor fumed.

"Don't you mean, more entertaining?"  Robin bragged.

"That too," Sylvain supplied, glancing from his drink over to the remaining two travesties.  He almost wished he’d thought of doing what Robin had done, taking advantage of the loophole in the game. Alas, it was too late and besides, he could no more throw a game than he could cheat at one.  However, with the only marginally acceptable ensemble taken, he would either have to win or face abject humiliation.

            Mr. Goodfellow changed in front of them, chatting cheerily the whole time and finding that the suit fit him quite well.  He strolled around and his right white shoe squeaked delightfully. With perfect timing, Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas blared from the speakers.

"You look like you're having too much fun," The Professor complained while also eyeing the other two fashion fiascos patiently awaiting their new owners.

"Oh no," Robin corrected. "The fun part has yet to come, and now I get to do what I do best: sit back, drink booze and offer commentary."


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Charity Tuesday: ChildHelp

Hello Everyone,

As we all know, spotlighting charities and worthwhile causes is important to SR.

As a group, Elli, Coco, Sere and I are also dedicated to promoting these endeavors. Therefore, we are happy to share a weekly series of posts in order to take a more in-depth look at the various charitable organizations highlighted by SR. You can find a complete list of these charities on our blog by clicking on the "About the Charities" header.

Today's post was submitted anonymously and we thank this person for sharing a personal experience with Argyle Empire.

We hope you will find the information in these posts informative and educational.  If you have a particular cause that is close to your heart or you have personal experiences with any of the charities we spotlight, please feel free to contact us about it.



Mission Statement: Childhelp is a non-profit organization whose mission is to meet the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs of abused, neglected and at-risk children.

Twitter: @Childhelp 

NSPCC - National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (UK): 

Mission Statement: The NSPCC is inspired by a belief that we can make a difference for all children. That’s why we aim to end cruelty to children in the UK. Even if it takes many generations to realise it, we achieve much more for children by having an inspirational vision.

Right from the moment we are born we have expectations - a right to be loved, and given the best possible care and upbringing. As we grow and learn, we have aspirations that we can aim for, whether that is in education, vocation or just in life itself. Some of us dream and achieve these by enjoying our childhood, going to school/college/University, getting a job, marriage and having children of our own - where the cycle begins again.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and again unfortunately, not by choice.

It took me until I was 22 to really achieve what I wanted in life. I had a good job and then found out I was pregnant with my 1st son. At the age of 29, I married and then gave birth to my 2nd son. We were just a regular family, with regular problems or so I thought!

In December 2010 the life I had suddenly crumbled away. 

I’d had my suspicions for a week that something wasn’t right within our family.  I couldn’t sleep one single moment; something was definitely happening; however I didn’t know what to do. 

It was 3.30am on a Sunday morning. I was terrified. My family lived hundreds of miles away from us, but I needed to do something. It was then that I decided to Google the NSPCC. I searched for their phone number; I needed to talk to someone to get advice as to what to do. As I heard the person’s voice, I was afraid of wasting their time or hearing what I really didn’t want to hear. I relayed what had happened in the last week and I’ll never forget the man’s voice to this day, he was a Godsend. He asked if the children and I could get through Sunday and then a person from Social Services would come to the house on Monday. He advised me on how to get through the next 24 hours and passed on the number for the local police and emergency Social Services in case I should need them. To feel as though I had got someone with me, guiding me was the reassurance I needed. 

From that period of December 2010 to present day, we have had the constant support of the NSPCC. My children and I had to flee our house in February 2011. We lived with my dad for five months before being re-housed. It was the NSPCC that sent references to housing agencies, charities to supply us with some furniture, so that we could get some normality back in to our lives. 

Whist living with my dad I was allowed to keep in contact with the NSPCC. They offered counselling to me, which I took. It helped, but I couldn’t stop feeling the guilt I had for not stopping the abuse sooner. I questioned myself as to why or how I hadn’t seen it happening? 

This time last year I couldn’t forgive myself, until I read Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture by SR. What happened is still fresh in our minds, but one thing I have to do to help move on is to forgive myself. I did everything I could to put a stop to it once I found something wasn’t right. The NSPCC or anybody else hasn’t judged me for not noticing before … I judged me!

In my spare time I love reading, but also support and help promote the NSPCC (and sexual abuse charities in the US and Canada, such as Childhelp), and raise awareness to any kind of abuse. We won’t ever stop abuse, but in this day and age we can fight it and say “NO!”

In my case, NSPCC worked together with the authorities and there was a positive outcome for my family. The "perpetrator" has been punished & the "victims" now are living a better life, largely in part due to the intervention and help of the NSPCC.

I can’t thank SR and Argyle Empire for spotlighting these charities. Each and every one of them deserves to be supported in any way possible. We just never know in life when we might need to call on them.

Monday, August 26, 2013

STUD: Part One

In a recent interview, Sylvain Reynard mentioned that he enjoys a good game of poker. That brief comment inspired Mango and MOG to wonder: What would a card contest among the major masculine "players" (so to speak) of the Gabriel series look like?

And this is the result. Here's the first chapter of STUD, an imaginary poker game with very high stakes. 

This short story has been read and approved for posting by SR. Any resemblance to actual living persons is purely coincidental. No one was harmed in the making of this little story, although the dignity of a few surely did suffer. 

The remaining three chapters of STUD will be posted over the course of this week.

We hope you have as much fun reading it as we did writing it.

~ Mango and MOG

The game: Poker
The stakes: Fashion humiliation
The players:

 The Author: Sylvain Reynard

The Snarky Narrator: Robin Goodfellow

 The Handsome Neighbor: Sir

 The Professor: Gabriel O. Emerson

The lower level of Harbour Sixty Steakhouse, the Toronto waterfront landmark restaurant, was dominated by the wood-paneled Louis XIII room.  The ceiling was low and the chamber was dark despite several lit sconces on the wall and a large metal chandelier that hung menacingly like a pendulum. 

            Usually, it was set up like a boardroom, with one large table flanked by high backed leather chairs that resembled thrones.  But that night, Professor Emerson had booked the room for very a small and very private party.  He’d made special arrangements with Antonio, the maître d’, who saw to all the specifications personally.

            Gabriel had taken many women to Harbour Sixty on first dates and hoped that it would prove lucky.  But tonight, The Professor was in the unusual position of trying out his luck with men.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  He needed all the good fortune he could get, since he’d made sure the stakes were so high. 

            The room he chose was also by design. If he was going to play poker against these particular gentlemen, he was going to do it in a cellar named after the monarch of the House of Bourbon.

The first person Antonio showed into the room was a man of a rather nondescript age.  His smile was youthful and guarded by dimples that barely puckered the skin.  But his eyes looked as if they had seen a thousand seasons within a hundred countries.  His full head of hair was brown and combed at the part.  His tan trousers sported old fashioned suspender buttons, and his blue shirt was the color of polished sapphires. 

            It was the man’s glasses, thick framed Buddy Holly specials, which allowed Antonio to identify him.  Professor Emerson had told him to expect three guests but (mysteriously) only provided two names.  The third individual was simply described as the man in George McFly spectacles along with a warning that read in part, "Watch out for this guy. He's a snarky bastard."

            The king-sized table had been replaced by a round one that was small and sturdy, and set on an oasis of flagstone tiles at the far end of the room.  Four of the leather throne-like chairs were placed around it, giving it the appearance of a giant frozen clock cog.

"Excuse me sir," Antonio said as he slid into the room behind the newcomer.  "May I offer you a cocktail?"

"Yes, thank you. I'll take a Manhattan."

"Very well," Antonio replied as he walked briskly over to a mirrored bar and began pulling bottles.

            Against the long wall, opposite the bar, stood three mannequins on three lit pedestals.  Each was wearing an outfit more atrocious than the next.  It was a wonder that Harbour Sixty even allowed such monstrosities in the building considering their dress code, which the man in the blue shirt was already breaking by not wearing a tie. (Parenthetically, it should be noted that he was virtually the only male who could get away with it.)

            The first specimen on display was a salmon-orange leisure suit complete with a crisp, copper-buttoned vest and a shirt collar that was as long and pointed as the fins on a '56 Cadillac Coupe Deville.  The pants had legs that widened into billowing cathedrals of polyester, each as big as a ship's bell.  The outfit was accompanied by a pair of shiny white patent leather shoes, but it was the turquoise bolo tie with silver-tipped black leather braids that truly completed the ensemble.

            On the second pedestal, the mannequin showed off, among other things, a pair of cowboy boots embroidered with unicorns, a girl's medium Justin Bieber concert tee shirt, and a gray and maroon plaid sport jacket with the sleeves rolled up. These items were offensive enough, but the devil was in the accessories.  Below the rolled up jacket sleeves was a Casio calculator watch as big as a sun panel on one wrist, while no less than three colorful bandannas adorned the other.  There was a lot of tacky bling as well, including but not limited to a huge chest medallion and two pinky rings.

            However, as monstrous as the first two get-ups were, the third was a fashion abomination worthy of a Nostradamus quatrain.  One could almost imagine the mannequin cringing as it helplessly modeled a pair of lime green Crocs, stuffed with over-the-calf white tube socks.  The socks had mismatched double stripes, two oranges on one side and a green and yellow combo on the other.   What really caught the eye about the couture calamity, though, was a leopard print banana hammock paired with a hot pink fish net tank top.

            Antonio walked the drink over to the nearly traumatized guest.  "It's quite...breathtaking isn't it?"

"I can't believe he went to this much trouble."

"Oh, it was no trouble," Antonio assured him. "There is a thrift shop around the corner and The Professor sent a pre-op tranny pimp to help me out with the ensembles."

"He sent you, did he?"

"He gave me an astronomical budget and instructed me to keep what I didn't spend."

            Just hearing Antonio say 'pre-op tranny pimp' with his musical Italian accent made the whole night worthwhile for the man whose smirk never seemed to venture far from the corner of his mouth.

"Of course he did," he muttered as he took a large sip of his Manhattan. He then nodded his compliments to the bartender. "And how much did you spend on this...stuff?"

"A hundred and thirty-five dollars."

The man laughed in his drink, his amusement accompanied by an echo they both heard.  "You got ripped off."

"I know."

The spectacled man laughed even harder, and for the first time Antonio allowed a small upward twitch of his vigilant mouth.

"Excuse me, sir." Antonio had been meaning to clear something up.  "But, Professor Emerson did not mention your name."

"Ah, well, that's to be expected."  The man’s cryptic comment was met with only the slightest cock of the maître d’s head.  The nameless man thought for a moment as he once more looked over the trio of tragic men's wear. Eventually, he turned back to Antonio with a wide smile.  "Why don't you call me Robin Goodfellow."

"Very well, Mr. Goodfellow."

Minutes later, Sylvain Reynard and Gabriel Emerson arrived at the same time.  Each stood in the hall gesturing for the other to enter the room first.  The scene had the makings of a real polite-off  marathon, but when The Professor noticed who was already in the room, he darted inside.
"Nice pants," he quipped to Robin.  "Do you work at Home Depot now?"

"Nice bow tie," Robin shot back. "Do you heckle performances at the Muppet Theatre now?"

The two men scowled at one another briefly before they shook hands warmly but vigorously.  Meanwhile, Sylvain slipped over to the bar and collected both glasses of Scotch that Antonio had just poured for his regular customers.

"Those are some pretty severe consequences," Mr. Reynard said to Professor Emerson.  SR gestured to the mannequins with one of the drinks before handing the glass over to The Professor.

"I know," Gabriel exhaled like a man in awe. "They're even worse than Antonio described."  He turned to his comrade. "You outdid yourself."

"Thank you, sir," came the response from the bar.

"How is this going to work exactly?" Robin asked The Professor as he finished his drink.

"Let's wait until the nerd gets here so I only have to explain things once," Gabriel answered sternly.  The Professor set his iPhone in a dock that had been specially procured for the night.  Scrolling through various playlists, he stopped and clicked on the one titled Four of a Kind. The opening strains of The Gambler by Kenny Rogers filled the room.

“Could you be any more obvious?” Robin grumbled, addressing The Professor.

“It suits the occasion,” Gabriel responded in a clipped tone.

“So does The Winner Takes All but I’d never inflict Abba on my colleagues,” the khaki-clad Goodfellow retorted.

With a few choice words muttered under his breath, Gabriel skipped to the next song, The Card Cheat by The Clash.

"Would you like another Manhattan, Mr. Goodfellow?" Antonio asked from the bar where he was already reaching for the whiskey. 

"Yes, please," Robin answered.

"Mr. Goodfellow?" Sylvain asked as he shook hands with his long-standing but reclusive friend.

"Robin Goodfellow," he emphasized as if he was introducing himself for the first time. Technically, with that name, he was. "I thought it was appropriate."

Sylvain nodded appreciatively.  He knew a clever Shakespeare reference when he heard one.

"Sorry I'm late." The new voice that shuffled into the room was just as low-key and distinguished as its owner.

"Gentlemen." Gabriel spoke up as he walked over to the newcomer and clapped his arm around him.  "This is my old neighbor...and literary conscience," he added with a wink to Sylvain. "I call him Sir."

"It's very nice to meet you all," Sir greeted with a muted French accent.  He looked at each man as he shook hands.  Then he saw the three mannequins, standing like grotesque captured aliens in a science lab.

            "Baiseur poker!"  he cursed, and almost felt like crossing himself.

"I hope you didn't ride here on a bike," Snarky Robin teased as he accepted his second drink from Antonio.

"Do you really expect us to wear these?"  Sir asked Gabriel.  He was positively astonished at the savage level of fashion sabotage.

"That is precisely what I expect," Gabriel confirmed as he walked over to the table and took a chair.  "If you sit at this table, you are agreeing to the terms sent in yesterday's email.  We will each be playing with a thousand dollars in chips.  If you lose your chips, you pick an outfit.  You can stay or you can go after that, but your new clothes must remain on your body until you return home."

"Unless of course you're attending a Mandingo party," Mr. Goodfellow suggested playfully.  "Or a tag-team trunk monkey fight in the basement of a condemned pickle jar factory."

"Which outfit are you talking about?" Sylvain asked as he walked briskly over to the only chair with its back facing the mannequins.

"Either of the last two," Robin replied after a brief consideration. He then approached the table and took the chair opposite The Professor.  "I can almost see myself in that leisure suit." 

Just then Robin experienced an epiphany, but kept it to himself.  Sylvain saw it, catching the twinkle in his counterpart’s eyes.  But The Professor was in full lecture mode and steamrolled the side chatter.

"The game is five card stud with a rotating deal.  No draw cards and no wild cards."

"Wild cards support a weak hand," Sir muttered as he took the last seat opposite SR.

"What was that?" The Professor displayed more patience with his neighbor than he ever had with any other man in the room, except Antonio.

"I was quoting Worf from Star Trek Next Generation," he explained. "You and he share the same beliefs when it comes to poker."

"And hair gel," Robin quipped.

The Professor remained motionless for a moment as his eyes bore a hole into the Snarky Narrator.  With a pointed stare, he threw a five dollar chip into the center of the table.  "Everybody ante."


©2012 All Rights Reserved | Website Designed by Website Design Credit

Powered by Blogger